The 4 best Puppy Bowl ads of 2024—plus the worst

“Too many pugs in here,” my wife said minutes into Puppy Bowl XX, the 20th iteration of one of the more brilliant bits of counter programming the Super Bowl pregame ever imagined.



“Too many puns in here as well,” I reply, and that was before Bark Purdy took the field and the puppy Thomas’s introductory card reveals his relationship with the Union Paw-cific Railroad.



Much like the Super Bowl itself, which had modest beginnings and over time grew into a spectacle and showcase for major brands, the Puppy Bowl has evolved into, well, the big game for pet lovers. For a long time, people in the entertainment business joked about putting on a show called Basketful of Puppies—and then Animal Planet did it, making the basket a football field-themed play area.



The Puppy Bowl, to its everlasting credit, promotes adopting rescue dogs, such as this year’s puppies rescued during the Maui wildfires. My family has two rescue dogs, Moxie (a 15-year-old beagle) and Wampus (basset, 3), and we foster dogs to help them find their forever homes as well. Sunny (basset mix, 3 to 5) and Gar (beagle, 1.5) are our current fosters.



So for the “puppiest ever” Puppy Bowl, clocking in at three hours this year rather than the usual two, we gathered in front of the TV with plenty of Milk-Bones (and human snacks) to see which brands stood out in wooing the dog-obsessed like us.



“Naked and Afraid” Puppy Bowl takeover



It’s no surprise to see Animal Planet’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, cross-promote other shows and stars across its cable channels. (Guy Fieri acquitted himself well with his pup talk during the “game.”) But the surreal comedy of foster dogs being interspersed with the trailer for the upcoming season of Naked and Afraid captured the silly, lighthearted fun of the day’s event. The only knock here is that they aired several other Naked and Afraid promos later in the festivities—with no dogs stealing the focus.



Arm & Hammer Slide kitty litter and Temptations “Cats lose their cool: Fashion Cat”









I’m as surprised as you may be that two cat ads have broken into the best list, but each of these spots has one solid joke in their 15-second run times that does just enough to charm any animal person, even a dog lover. The Arm & Hammer kitty litter ad knows that all you really need is the funny visual of cat heads on human dancing bodies shimmying on a 1970s Saturday Night Fever-style multicolored disco floor. For Temptations, it’s the Fashion Cat rolling up the limo window on her owner after her scenester friends contemptuously ask, You know this person? Neither ad does as much as it could to make the connection to its product, but really, who cares? They’re memorable anyway.



Subaru Dog Tested “On Repeat”









This long-running campaign has everything you want in a dog-centric ad: Dogs in a humorous situation that also happens to mimic a situation every dog person has experienced—namely, when their dogs are so excited about the car that they enthusiastically take all the seats, including the driver’s. The ads not only charm with their carful of dogs in a Subaru Crosstrek having the kind of outdoor adventure they love, but the spots also give a turn in the spotlight to a feature of the Subaru that humans might enjoy too.



Unfortunately, many ads fell far short of the mark. Several ads barely made an effort, from the eczema ad that perfunctorily had some dogs in it and Wayfair’s uninspired commercial about how it has dog beds, blankets, and bowls to Bissell’s many, many ads showing its vacuums cleaning up a mess, many of which were hardly the dog’s fault.



Then the Rover ad ran as we headed into the fourth quarter.









“Rover Presents: To My Hooman”



The ad immediately signals its skin-crawling awfulness with its screechy, off-key song, creating the kind of anxiety that can only be approached by trying to comfort a dog during a fireworks show or severe thunderstorm. Then there’s the childish animation, which is made worse with its condescending on-screen spelling from the dog, namely the pup talking about its hooman. Rover as a service can be fine; my family has hosted dogs and it can be a good experience. But this unwatchable ad is a woof.

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